Apr 28, 2010

I'm tired of white

Since the arrival of Vasanta, he hasn't given me much color except the sparsely blooming Ixora,
Cape Honeysuckle,
and Indian Licorice. I was tired of seeing white everywhere.
Not that I don't like them, but I would appreciate some color for a change, which is why I am desperately trying to germinate cornflowers, calendulas, and other ornamentals, but it's sad that they aren't germinating at all!
Dear Seeds,
I am greatly offended by this behavior. I tried by sowing y'all directly out in the sun, but you never showed up your green heads. Thinking you resented the white hot sun who's heating up the climate up to 34 degree Celsius (93.2 degree Fahrenheit), I put you guys in paper cups and fed you with spoon so as not to flood you and placed you under the gentle Fluorescent light, where the temperature is about 30 degree Celsius (86 degree Fahrenheit). Is that still hot for you guys? Well, I have setup something else for you guys - the baggy method - I now placed you guys in wet paper towels in ziploc bags. Hope you guys germinate now at least. Please don't offend me this time...
By the ways, what was I saying?

Oh yea, the color in Plantville. After almost a month of white (Don't get offended Jasmine  and Leucas - it's nice to have you around, but I just want some color is all)
something showed up its beautiful, big, bright faces!
Suddenly Planville was all pink and smiling! What a surprise! This plant surprises me again this year as it did last year by blooming unexpectedly. I thought the bulbs were overly crowded and needed repotting. The other day, I thought of removing the bulbs and diving them, but to my surprise I saw a tiny stalk emerging from the soil!
In a matter of two days another stalk rose up
and third showed up the next week.
AND a fourth few days later! Isn't that superb? That too in a pot that was fertlized badly. Well, I don't remember spraying this pot at all!
I think this is the fifth stalk... Now that'd oh-so awesome!
Now I can enjoy the show for at least two more weeks!


Following cue, the Dwarf Ixora sent out a profusion of blooms. I just wish my seeds germinate and give Plantville some color.
Update on my Tomatoes: Two berries have swollen to about an inch or more and there are more berries forming!

I need an advice from you: This pot that houses the tomato is really small and I doubt if it can hold the plant. To make if worse, there's another seedling in it. I can't divide them as their roots must have twined with each other already. Is it wise to repot it to a bigger pot now? I'm afraid of disturbing the fruit production by repotting.
Update on the grass/Muscari: I did want to let the grass or Muscari grow and give it a chance as I do with all the weeds - as you all know, but four days ago, I saw that the cup had only a little piece of the grass and the root seems to have gone! Poof! So was there a bulb inside? Did the pesky, danged, words-that-cannot-be-typed squirrels eat it up? They seemed to have played around with my Sugar Melon seedling, but luckily it survived. It killed my Swainsona seedling by toppling the cup over while trying to reach the Muscari.
I'm sure it's a squirrel as I've seen two squirrels always playing around. Should spray the garlic around to keep them away. So was it Muscari really? If so, is Muscari edible for squirrels? Hmmmm....
I've never seen squirrels attack grasses that grow on other pots... I guess I'll never know what it was.
Update on the groundcherries: Many have  ripened now - not enough to make a bottle of Jam, but I guess I gotta use them up somehow. Have any recipe for me? Most of the recipes that I search online suggest Jams.

Apr 20, 2010

Am I Being fooled?

How embarrassing it would be if you doted on a stupid weed thinking it's the plant that you cherished and wanted badly? You tend to the seedling, look at it with loving eyes, love it with a smile, caress it with a gentle finger, water it gently taking care not to disturb the baby's roots, move it to its new home oh-so carefully, and see to it that it gets the right nourishment...
...but what if Nature played a joke on you?
This Muscari comosum (Tassel Hyacinth) seedling - or that's what I think it is was the only one that germinated among five that I sowed! It looked like a tiny clump of grass - I read online about its description and from what I read, even the adult leaves are grass-like.
I let it grow awhile and as posted in my previous post, I gently scooped it to its new home and two days later, fed it with a light fertilizer. Now it seems all healthy and fresh! That's good, but today, while watering, I noticed that it looks like a grass!
So, is this a stupid grass? But how can it be? I sowed it in coco peat where there could be no room for weeds... Again, is it possible that some bird of darned squirrels dropped something in the cell? That's a remote possibility but still it IS a possibility.
I am ready to wait four years for it to bloom (if it is a Grape Hyacinth). From what I see now, it is growing like a grass instead of a bulb that grows like a clump from a central node (if my assumption is correct). Though it's only a seedling, I assume that it'd start forming a teeny bulb, but there's no sign of it.
Now, do I let this grow? Is this just a grass or is the baby grape hyacinth that I've been longing for? Or Am I Being Fooled Here?

Apr 16, 2010

Seeds and seedlings

Though I've become comfortable repotting plants, I always fear that my seeds would never ever germinate. Sometimes the seeds germinate in two or three days and sometimes they never do (the same seeds from same company). I am not sure if it is the problem with seeds or me not doing it right.

In 2008, all the sunflowers, cornflowers, Gaillardias, Pansies, and many others that I sowed germinated well, but I lost them all (well, almost all of them except very few) to the unexpected rains (http://inartliesmyheart.blogspot.com/2008_08_01_archive.html). I did a stupid mistake of sowing them all close and letting them grow thin and wobbly. Well, I was an amateur (not that I am an expert now, but at least better than what I was two years ago - thanks to great bloggers like Tina, Prue, Catherine, Randy and Jamie, and many others - I'd have to dedicate a separate post to mention all of them).

This year, my germination rate has been really poor so far. I was excited when I got packets of seeds from a nice-hearted friend from Germany but only a very few germinated. This time, I should blame myself for not doing something right with them.
Here's all that've germinated so far:
  • Balsam (Balsamina impatiens)
  • Sturts Pea (Swainsona formosa)
  • Sugar Melon (Can someone help me with its botanical name?)
  • White Gaura - Gaura lindheimeri
  • Another one, I don't remember the name :D
  • And this one, I seriously hope is the most-badly-wanted Grape Hyacinth - Muscari comosum (Can anyone confirm?)
I sowed many others this week and this time, instead of placing them in the terrace (where my watering could be a problem), I placed them below the tubelight in the hall (Good that we Indians use those white florescent tubelights in our homes).
  • Tomato 'Yellow Queen'
  • Strawberries (again, YES, I'm not ready to give up yet)
  • Zinnia
  • Dahlia (I'm not giving up on these either!)
  • Green Beans (God! What was I thinking? Am I be brave enough to grow veggies?)
  • Cayenne Long Pepper
  • Canarina canariensis ex Tenerife
  • Borage
  • Black-eyed Susan (Thurnbergia)

The balsam and co that germinated in small cells were drying out due to the lack of space. They didn't give out more than four/three leaves. The Tomato 'Yellow Queen' seedlings died! I thought it was time that I transplanted them, but was not sure if I should transplant them directly into the pots so I decided to transplant them into paper cups, where they'd spend their time for two more weeks and then move on to their final destinations.
I made three holes at the bottom of the pot, filled them up with my coco peat + sand + compost mix, made a two inch hole in the centre.
Then I scooped up the seedlings with a spoon from the cells after pressing them from the bottom to loosen the soil.
Look at how much growth the seedling has put up in so little a time!
Plopped them into the hole in the paper cups, pressed the soil gently, water them and we're done!
I hope they all grow into adults! Palms enjoined (Well, that's the Indian version of fingers crossed :D)!
(The above one is the White Gaura) 
And today, one of the Dahlia seeds showed up a green stem, it's yet-to-be opened cotyledons still buried into the soil. I was so excited and a small tiny reed-like seedling emerged from the soil. I hope it is Aristolochia which is what I sowed in it. There's no chance that it could be anything else as there's no soil for weeds in the cups. But does an Aristolochia seedling look like a tiny reed? Tiny as in less than a centimeter tiny.
Oh, I almost forgot about the Black Gram (Vigna mungo) that I sowed more than a week ago and it germinated within three days! The germination was 99%! I plant to use it with my tomatoes as a cover crop. I'm not sure if cover crop concept would be effective in containers, but this is gonna be a trail. I also bought carrot seeds yesterday and I think I have Summer version of radishes somewhere in the seeds box. I plant to grow them together in pots using tissue papers - I learnt of the seed tapes yesterday and read that it's useful while growing carrots to avoid some virus (am I correct?) infection. I also am planning to grow Black eyed peas to plant with my veggies in future. Any of you have an idea if cover crops would good in containers? I think they should theoretically, but is it remarkable?
 (The leaves are a lush green and look so fresh! Lover of flowers at heart than vegetables, I am excited to see its blooms)
And here, is the picture of my first tomato (if at all there's some other already forming that missed my eye). Isn't he cute? Veggie growers must think I'm bonkers, but hey this is my first official vegetable!
I think the curl that I was talking about in one of my past posts is due to potassium deficiency or could also be deficiency of micro nutrients which reduced Potassium intake. I saw that there were purplish venation at the bottom of the elder leaves.
Have a busy weekend everyone!

Apr 12, 2010


I have been getting few (underline few :D) emails asking me to write a post about repotting a plant. Well, I am no expert at this, but still here, I wish to share how I do it. Experts out there, please correct me if I go wrong somewhere. :D

I repotted a Betel vine and a Jasmine Creeper and also a Golden Champaca and Tuberose. The impulsive shopper in me bought the last three plants from my visit to Horticultural Society (not as great as the name suggests, but I guess something is better than nothing) on Saturday. I thought I'd take photos as I pot the plants up to those who find it a dreadful task.

This post is especially dedicated to my Teacher (Mrs Eswari Natarajan) who recently took interest in gardening after visiting my blog. I was flattered!

The other gemini: Stop boasting and on to the post!

Ahem! :D Don't mind him, he thinks I'm a dumbo.

I have heard people saying that their plants died after they potted up the plants that they bought from the nursery and many dread the thought of repotting, fearing that they would injure the plant, but it is important that potted plants are repotted at least once in two or three years or every other year for plants that grow really fast.

About the nursery-bought plants, most of the times the soil is caked (at least in this part of India) and so thick that you can't even loosen the soil, so people stick the cylindrical block right into the soil, which doesn't help the roots to spread and the plant dies.

Due to my coco peat conversion, I had to completely remove all the soil (it really was a task, trying to free the soil from the roots!), except the soil that stuck to the base.

Okay, on to the process:

1. Pot Selection: If repotting a plant, always choose a pot slightly bigger than its previous home as same applies for the plants bought from nursery.

2. I like to wash my pots before re-using it and I'd recommend the same to you. Cover the drain holes of the pot with crock pieces or even a mesh would do - Anything that prevents soil from blocking the hole and creates drainage problems.

3. Ready your potting mix. I used 60% Coco peat + 30% Sand + 5-10% Compost. Fill half of the pot with the potting mix.

4. a) Remove the plant from the pot and cut away the roots that weave themselves around the pot. I'll show how to do this in my next post as I forgot to take pictures of my Betel vine and morever the vine wasn't pot-bound as I potted it only two months ago. Since I wanted to get rid of all the soil, I gently free almost 95% of soil from the roots.
b) If potting a nursery-bought plant, first make three cuts along the circumference of the plastic
and peel it like you'd do a banana to the bottom and then separate if from the soil. Most of the times, you'd see the plants root penetrating the plastic and peeping out. If this is the case do NOT pull the plastic away, because most definitely the bottom half of the cylindrical soil block would come off! Which means, you have another half of the root with the plastic. You DON'T want this to happen as I myself have done this in the beginning.

Cup the bottom with the palm of your hand and squeeze it so that the soil becomes loose. If the cylinder is big, loosen the soil at the bottom (along with the plastic) between your thumb and fingers. Now slowly remove the peeled plastic away.

5. a) After trimming the pot-bound roots, you'd have to loosen the soil around.
   * An important note here: If you by accident cut quite an amount of roots, don't panic. You have the situation under control still. Just trim the plant on the top to compensate the root loss. Simple!

b) Squeeze the cylindrical block of your nursery-bought plant to loosen the soil. I removed all the soil except the the one sticking to the roots (If you're doing this, be careful not to break off the thick roots, thin minor roots are okay though).
6. Now place the plant over the soil and see how much more you'd need to fill up. Mark the level with a chalk or visually. Allow a two-inch (at least one-inch) space from the rim of the pot. AS a general rule, make sure that you pot the plant up to the level of soil that it was growing in nursery or in its previous home. This is important because covering the part of plant that was above the soil would rot the plant!
7. Now keep the plant aside and fill the pot upto the marked level.

8. Place the plant on the soil and gentle press its roots into the soil and hold it in place. Now start filling the space around with the soil upto two inches below the rim of the pot.
In case of some creepers like this betel vine, you don't have to worry about planting it deeper than it was, because it doesn't suffer root rot. Now, if your roots are long like this Vine. Spread it around the pot and holding it with your fingers, fill the soil.
Sometimes, you'd see that in creepers or shrubs, a larger part of the stem is bare and only the tip has shoots. You might want to bend it and bury it into the soil.
This would give you an extra plant few months later. Once you start seeing new growth, you can cut the arch (wait until the new growth grows a bit) and repot the other half, plant it in the ground, or if you're too-very-good-hearted, share it with your friends or neighbors.
What we did just now is ground layering! Most of the times you'd want to stake the layered branch and even place a brick or a heavy object above the ground to prevent the branch from springing up.

While doing this, I accidentally broke the stem of my Jasmine, but you see that a thin tissue is still holding the two pieces together. Most of the times, you'd see that the plant would recuperate from this. If you have a root hormone powder, you might want to apply it to the broken section.

9. I like to add the fertilizer a inch below the surface of soil and I mixed it with soil an inch below before filling up. Make sure that you add the fertilizer or Plant food at least an inch or two away from the roots to avoid damage.
I added Flower food to this nursery-bought Jasmine and Michelia in addition to the fertilizer.
Add stakes or mesh for the creeper and tie the vines using a twine to them.
10. Now water the pot copiously and make sure it drains from the hole(s) from the bottom.
11. If your plant is tall and fragile, consider staking it until its roots settle themselves.
Doesn't it sound simple? Well, for beginners it might not, but believe me, once you do two or three, you'd find it easy. Have fun repotting and propagating! Give your plants a new home!